20 years of Raw... I had a lot more hair back in 93.
I really dug the theme song montage, and I don't miss Nickelback even a little bit.
Vince McMahon started the evening with his obligatory milestone appearance to set up the evening. I honestly don't know why he just doesn't re-join the commentary team. His excitement still shows, you know he's back there telling Michael Cole what to say anyway, why not just lead the commentary and set the tone for the show every week?
Big Show interrupted, angry about losing the World Championship to Alberto Del Rio, but unlike most of these incidents, he was quickly put in his place by Vince. It was a fun dynamic, Big Show playing sniveling employee to his boss was rather amusing... is there a more versatile actor in WWE than Big Show?
I never thought Alberto Del Rio's shtick would work as a good guy, but that's just how good he is, I suppose... I dug the new Mexican flag-inspired tights too. Del Rio was clearly having a blast and while this went on way too long to get to its eventual point (shocker, they're having a rematch at the Rumble), Del Rio and Show played off each other really well and Vince just standing there glaring was funny.
"Jerry Lawler has been here for... most of the Raws." Let's just all forget about that brief vacation he took, aka marriage.
Wade Barrett vs. Randy Orton was our opening contest, and it was a typical Orton match. Normally, that would be bad, but perhaps since I've been away from WWE, specifically Smackdown, for awhile, it didn't bother me as much as usual. A slow, methodically paced match, but both guys got to be in control and they had plenty of time to work with, a benefit of the three hour time slot. A clean win for Wade Barrett was downright shocking though, a very uncharacteristic move, especially for a Raw match, where I'd wager Orton is nearly undefeated.
"I like that he can set things on fire by lowering his arms somehow." Well, that alone made revisiting Kane & Daniel Bryan's therapy sessions worth it.
Kane vs. Damien Sandow made sense, Hell No and Rhodes Scholars have a title match scheduled for the Rumble, but c'mon, you know you wanted to see Sandow vs. Bryan. A short match, highlighted by Michael Cole saying Sandow was treated like "Pavlov's Dog," but a quick and easy win for Kane.
And Mick Foley is your first inductee in the 2013 WWE Hall of Fame, a well-deserved and overdue honor for one of my all-time favorites. Foley was gearing up for a speech when he was quickly interrupted by The Shield, but Foley gearing up for a fight he knew he would lose was probably the best possible summation of his career.
But before Rollins, Reigns and Ambrose could strike, Ryback made the save, only to fall victim himself. So Randy Orton made the assist too, followed by Sheamus, which would've made a fun six-man tag, but instead Ryback remained in the ring for an interview with Josh Mathews and dude was PIIIIIISSED. Since Ryback is my favorite to win the Rumble, I expect he will tear them apart at some point in the match.
Gimmick montage was fun, anytime I get a Man Mountain Rock reference, a Naked Mideon clip and "HE'S A MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!" I'm a happy guy.
Kaitlyn defeated Eve for the Divas Championship after speculation that Eve is leaving the company. We call that "Pulling a Hardy," where I'm from, leaving after you finally get a big break. 2013 is her sixth year though, so I suppose she was approaching her Divas Expiration Date™. Good Divas match though, and the crowd was into it, which always helps. This is what's frustrating, WWE has the tools to present an exciting Divas division, they just don't.
Brodus Clay took umbrage with CM Punk's "shuck and jive" comments last week, so hey, the two are gonna fight. I miss that, little side stories playing out, Bret Hart's WWE Title reign was always loaded with stuff like that. The champ doesn't have to fight another main eventer or be put in a tag match every week, let him work down the card and give folks something different. This is precisely what I was asking for last week when wondering why they constantly use Santino as an underdog challenger.
I have little interest in Brodus Clay, his gimmick wore out its welcome about two minutes after it debuted, but I really liked him in this role. He looked believable against CM Punk, but Punk got to do things a little differently and look more dominant than he would in a typical main event situation. He couldn't hit Orton with the flying elbow and make him tap to the Anaconda Vice without all sorts of dramatics, but he could here. Well done.
Rock n Sock reunion was a rare backstage skit worth watching. Foley's lovable teddy bear quality helps bring down The Rock's douchebaggery considerably.
Sheamus vs. 3MB in a 3-on-1 handicap top rope challenge was quite unfortunate, I feel like we haven't had to deal with handicap matches for awhile. I'm so torn on 3MB because they pull off unbearable cock-knockers so well, but good God, their segments have to be among the most inconsequential in wrestling today. Slater actually won the match, but does that really do anything for anybody? The crowd's collective "..." said it all.
Poor Miz. While I do think Miz TV is a good idea for him, he is teetering dangerously close to reverting back to his original WWE job: random hype man. Regardless, I'm not going to cry when Ric Flair is on my TV in any capacity.
BTW, why are there couches on Miz TV when the host and guest sit in director's chairs?
Naitch was in rare form and him and Miz were clearly having fun together, even though they were both nervous as hell. I can understand Miz, but I still get sad whenever I see Naitch still get nervous after all this team, he clearly still feels like he has something to prove, which is bizarre when you are the greatest of all-time.
After some fun, Antonio Cesaro interrupted, saying Miz and Flair sum up America so well: a failed reality star hosting a talk show with a champion who made $10 million, but spent $30 million. That actually is a pretty good summation, actually... just needed a morbidly obese gun nut and we'd be all set!
Flair lit Cesaro up with some chops, Miz hit Skullcrusher Mountain and Flair let Miz lock in the Figure 4. How cool must that have been for Miz and Cesaro?
Cody Rhodes vs. Daniel Bryan made sense with Kane vs. Sandow earlier in the night, but I was shocked Bryan won so quickly and easily. I assume next week Sandow vs. Bryan and Rhodes vs. Kane? Maybe? Please? I really wanna see Sandow vs. Bryan.
Jim Ross joining commentary for the main event made me really happy.
How weird that last night was Dolph Ziggler's first cage match? I assume he probably had one as a Spirit Squad member, but I wouldn't blame anyone for blocking as much of the Spirit Squad from memory as possible.
I admit to Cena/Ziggler fatigue, but you gotta grant that they work well together and at least we got a steel cage out of it, Ziggler turning the slingshot into a chance to climb the cage was awesome. As was his dropkick on the ropes... no, not off the ropes, on the ropes. Someone give this guy the World Title already.
Can we again mention how Cena is a freak of nature? Climbing the ropes while Ziggler was on his back with the sleeper applied? We've seen similar feats before and it didn't look particularly impressive because Cena made it look so easy. That's a 220+ lbs. man on his back and he's climbing a damn cage? I get winded when I carry a backpack to my car.
Big drama at the end of the match made it really exciting, perhaps the most near falls - or near escapes - that I've ever seen in a cage match and that DDT from Ziggler off the top rope... yes, DDT OFF THE TOP ROPE was NASTY~! But of course, Cena won, despite all sorts of shenanigans from Big E. Langston and AJ King-Konging the cage.
The match spotlighted WWE's big issues: a new coat of paint didn't change the fact that we're still seeing the same thing with the same result. I think I've been pretty patient with Cena always winning over the years, but this was just "eh, okay, you've already done this 8 bajillion times in the last three months." This show, wrestling-wise, was superb, but the fact remains that in a lot of ways, WWE's wheels are still just spinning in the mud. And much like in My Cousin Vinny, it makes me want to scream "WHAT THE FUCK?!"
Our final segment of the evening was the Rock Concert featuring... Man Mountain Rock!
C'mon, you know it would've made the show better.
The Rock did his thing: Paul Heyman is fat and has a little dick, name-dropped famous people he knows (Dusty Hill from ZZ Top in this case), and then made fun of poor Vickie Guerrero in front of her fellow Texans... what an asshole. At least he didn't call her fat though, that's progress in the world of WWE and Vickie's reaction to "Horrible Tonight" was priceless. She is the greatest of sports.
The tone shifted when Rock called out Punk, but in an interesting twist, it was the bad guy who rushed the ring and took the fight to Rocky. Yet another thing that makes Punk so unique and it was nice to see they're not afraid to buck tradition a little more with the whole "guys in a dream match can't touch before said match." Good way to close the show.
I loved this Raw. They didn't rely too much on nostalgia, there was no token Sgt. Slaughter appearance, but the video packages were well done and existing stories moved forward... except Cena/Ziggler. But honestly, that and the 3MB nonsense were my only gripes with the show. A bad ending and one throwaway match on a three hour show though? That's a pretty good average. Getting VERY excited for The Rumble, Rock vs. Punk very well could be legendary and honestly, the first match in WWE history that I wouldn't mind if it went on after the Royal Rumble itself.